A family member said Kerwn Duncan was going through a “rough patch” when he allegedly grabbed 31-year-old Simon Morris’ wallet Friday morning — but said that shouldn’t have resulted in him being beaten to death, The Advocate reported.
Now the man who started as a crime victim faces a charge of his own: manslaughter.
Police said in a news release that they were called to South Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans, La., shortly after 8 a.m. Friday after reports of a fight. They found Duncan unresponsive on the ground and transported him to the hospital, where he died.
Police interviewed Morris and took him into custody, according to The Times-Picayune.
Police said, in court records obtained by the Advocate, that Morris chased Duncan down and began beating him after Morris snatched his wallet from his back pocket. Horrified onlookers attempted to pull him off while Duncan “was begging Morris to stop and was attempting to cover his face and body,” police said, according to the site.
A witness told the Times-Picayune he saw a group of around five people moving around an alleyway and that he saw some people “trying to restrain” a man he recognized as Morris from a mugshot.
“The guy died? I feel sorry about that,” he told the paper.
In Louisiana, manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Some area residents have said Morris was justified in his alleged beating of Duncan, according to messages received by WWL News. On social media, some argued the same.
The station urged a cautious response. “What if people falsely claim they were victims, kill the wrong person or they end up dead trying to administer this kind of street justice?” reporter Dave Cohen wrote.
Morris’ lawyer told the Advocate he would be “providing a robust defense for my client, who was the victim of a theft, really, and was defending himself.”